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Friends of God

(Gottesfreunde). A term used in Scripture, by the Fathers, and in medieval writings, which refers also to a group of German mystics and other Christians in the fourteenth century. They exchanged visits, letters, and writings for their own spiritual growth and service. Some lived alone, others in groups, and several were nuns in the convents to whom the mystics preached and ministered. Profoundly influenced by Meister Eckhart's* works as well as the ideals of earlier German prophetesses, they cultivated intense prayer, austerity, and self-renunciation. Fully supporting the church, they were concentrated in Bavaria, the Rhineland, Switzerland, and the Low Countries, with Basle, Strasbourg, and Cologne as chief centers. Their number included Dominicans, Franciscans, and lay people of every estate. Associated with them were John Tauler,* Henry Suso,* Jan van Ruysbroeck,* and the author of the Theologia Germanica,* and there were links also with the Brethren of the Common Life.* The Friends are to be distinguished from the heretical Beguines* who took their name. The decline of mysticism brought the end of their association, but their influence long continued.